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Palin turns up in Baltimore

A day after embarking on a bus tour that one associate suggested was a way to see if her family is up to the rigors of a presidential campaign, Sarah Palin made a surprise visit Monday to Fort McHenry -- and rebuked President Barack Obama for a comment about the U.S. military.

Robin Abcarian of sister newspaper The Los Angeles Times describes the scene:

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"Palin and her family followed Ranger Jim Bailey, dressed in the sweltering heat as an 1814 Army artillery officer, who gave them a tour of the battlefield in Baltimore and let Palin pick up a 36-pound cannonball.

"On their way out, Sarah and Todd Palin peered through glass at the original 1814 score for Francis Scott Key's 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'

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"She stoked the mystery of whether she will run for president at each stop, saying several times that she is still "contemplating" a run. One associate, who was not authorized to speak for Palin, said he thinks that the trip is a way for the Palins to see whether they are up for the rigors of the campaign trail. (Her youngest child, Trig, 3, was not seen, nor did Tripp, the 2 ½-year-old son of her eldest daughter, Bristol, appear to be on the bus.)

"Later at the fort, asked about the GOP field, she mentioned Texas Gov. Rick Perry, saying she thought he would make 'a fine candidate' and that 'we have a lot in common.'

"'Competition breeds success,' she said. 'I would hope there is gonna be vigorous debate and a lot of aggressive competition even in our primary so that our voters have a good choice.'

"She didn't answer a question about her position on U.S. policy in Afghanistan, instead slightly remonstrating President Obama for his remark Monday at Arlington National Cemetery that it is his 'most solemn responsibility as president to serve as commander in chief of one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever known.'

"Said Palin: 'It's not just one of the greatest fighting forces. And I sure hope our president recognizes that. We're not just one of many. We are the best.'

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